Spreading the Joy

Today was day two of my needlepoint Mah Jongg class. Jeanne and Lisa brought the most fabulous “snacks” which turned out to be a huge meal for dinner. We had to have a little class before I let everyone take a break for dinner.

The group actually played their first real game and just when Kate thought she needed to be refreshed before she could go on she won her first Mah Jongg game. There is nothing more thrilling than losing your Mah Jongg virginity.

After a lovely dinner we went back to playing. This is a competitive group who all want to win and everyone did a superior job to night. Even people who did not Mah Jongg were so close.

Nancy made Mah Jongg and I have never seen her so excited in her life. It was a true celebration, especially since she has been wanting to learn for years. She announced that there will be a lot more Mah Jongg Needlepoint at the store after this!

Kate knocked it out of the park winning the third game in a heart braking steel from Lisa because Lisa had been on call for one last tile for two whole walls and Kate had her tile.

I predict everyone will get their first Mah Jongg at their next lesson since they all are progressing at record speed. That pattern recognition skill from needlepoint definitely translates to Mah Jongg.


From the Garden to the Platter

I am really going to miss the summer growing season. So quickly I became accustomed to cooking from the garden. Planning my dishes based on what was ripe. I definitely made some new combinations of foods because of what I had available.

Tonight we had a young couple over for dinner. As I am busier this week than I have been in months I had to make things that were quick. Since both Russ and I had to be on the same Zoom call for the hour before our guests arrived I needed to make everything in advance.

I settled on making a room temperature meal to simplify life. I did some cheese, hummus and veggies as nibbles with drinks. Then I served this platter for dinner. It was roasted vegetables of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. I garnished it with fresh basil from the garden and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Some pan seared salmon, not from the garden. Then a tabbouli of bulgar wheat full of fresh parsley, mint, tomato and cucumber all from the garden. It was fresh and easy.

I am dreading winter and having to eat store bought veggies. I have not planted fall vegetables yet as my summer ones are still taking up space. As long as they are producing I am going to keep them. My tomato yield picked up a little this week. It is going to be cruel to lose fresh tomatoes.


Back to School

Today was like a day from 2019. It started with Garden Club actually meeting for the first time in person in eighteen months. We had a small turnout of faithful mask wearing members outdoors at Pokey’s pavilion, which is the most perfect tented area out back of her house.

It was kind of like the first day of back to school when you have a class made up of all your friends with no smelly boys. It was nice to get dressed and talk about things other than Covid, even if what we talked about was garden club budget. I am very thankful that Missy McLeod continues to be our treasurer.

Following up my back to school theme today I held the first class of my needlepointers learning to play Mah Jongg. Needlepoint Nancy, Jeanne, Kate and Lisa all came for the first of their three classes. Nancy and Jeanne have been waiting through more than the whole Pandemic to learn. They were all excellent students and Kate only got distracted two or three times.

I had warned them that they will not know how to play Mah Jongg after the first class and they didn’t believe me until the last fifteen minutes when I threw some hard concepts at them. It’s Ok. Thursday they come for the second class and then they will get to actually play.

Oh, today felt like the old days, even though I wore a mask at garden club.


Canada Rules

I hope you have Apple TV, because if you do please watch “Come From Away.” It is the musical based on the true story of the people of Gander, Newfoundland Canada who took in over 7,000 people on 38 flights on 9/11. I watched the film of the musical on 9/11 and it made the heaviness of that day lift off me.

Thirty years ago I was lucky enough to get to work with all the Canadian Provincial telephone companies for two years. Although the headquarters for the work was in Ottawa, my specific role meant that I got to visit every province at least four or five times. Some places I went to more often. It was never a hardship to have to go to Vancouver, or Toronto. Those cities are still some of my favorite places, but there is nothing like Moose Jaw.

I got to know lots of really wonderful Canadians. Some I am still in touch with today. One of my favorites, Stuart Wright from Bell Canada, even invited me to have dinner at his home and meet his family. Since then he and his wife Saundra have come to our house on their way to play golf down south. One of my clients in Calgary made sure to schedule my work with her during the stampede so she and her husband could take me to see what life there was really like.

I went to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland a couple of times, but never got to Gander. They gave me a bottle of Screech, a local favorite, and I never had the heart to tell them I had given up drinking long before. I think they might not have trusted me if I told them that. But the people In St. John’s were a fun group.

Watching Come From Away I felt like I had met all those people before all over Canada. It made me miss going there. I feel very lucky that I had those years there. I pray that if the tables were turned and we had to welcome a large group of strangers we could be half as hospitable as the people of Gander.

Watch the musical. It is a treat, with great music, but mostly a story about kindness that we all could be reminded of right now.


Never Done

When we were in Maine I made a spur of the moment purchase of a new rug for the living room when Russ was not with me. It was a little out of character, but I was so drawn to this rug that I just had to have it.

When I got back to our friend’s house where Russ was hanging out, instead of shopping, I told him about the new rug. “Huh, I didn’t know we needed a new rug.”

Need is the key word here. We did not need a new rug. In fact I now have my old needlepoint rug put aside and am not exactly sure what I am going to do with it. It is in perfect condition, but I have had it for twenty three years.

I am of the mind that you need to constantly be redoing rooms in your house. It does not mean you have to do everything all at once, but recovering, repainting something every year. A few years back I got new window treatments for the living room and I thought I would redo the furniture soon after that, but somehow got side tracked. I am so glad I did, because now I am going to work around this rug. I chose the rug because it went with my new window treatments.

It is so easy to become complacent with things they way they are, but things get tired, faded, worn or out of date. Freshening up your surroundings is like instant happiness. I know people who move houses because they are tired of looking at their old house. They could just reupholster the sofa.

I have a list of things I want to do at my house. Like I want to change my entry hall, but have not figured out exactly what color I want it to be. I guess now I’ll wait until I pick out new fabric for the living room and then decide. You know the old saying, “If you pull one thread…”

In my case it was a new rug.


200 Times Worse than 9/11

I’ve lived exactly one third of my life post 9/11. Before that date bad things that happened in our country were just bad, but we got over them. I grew up watching the TV news in the era of Vietnam. Every night Walter Cronkite would open the news with the number of dead Americans in Vietnam that day. To my small person’s perspective I thought the news was the report of everybody that died in all of America, but the number was small, a dozen or so.

We had the assignation of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy’s. Then their was the Challenger explosion. I felt like those were the worst tragedies I would ever see. 9/11 changed all of that. We came together as a country in our collective grief and we supported each other, because we had a common enemy.

Covid has been a tragedy of more than 200 times the magnitude in the sense of deaths, but somehow Covid has divided this county unlike any terrorist. I wish that people would learn to come together like we did after 9/11.

The idea of getting a vaccine and wearing a mask to protect your neighbor would have been a no brainer right after 9/11 if that would protect the county. Where is that American spirit today?

After 9/11 I thought that would be the biggest national tragedy I would witness is my life, but Covid has overtaken that spot. We didn’t know 9/11 was going to happen, but we did work to ensure that terrorists could not use planes as bombs again. We can slow Covid and give our health care workers a break if we all take the scientifically proven measures of vaccines and mask wearing . It is patriotic to do what is right for the collective good of America. Children under 12 can’t be vaccinated yet. When in modern American history have we not tried to protect children? Not getting a vaccine and wearing a mask puts children at risk. I know no one thinks of themselves as child killers.

Let’s feel that good feeling of coming together for each other. Let’s do what Dolly Parton wants us to do. Get the vaccine and wear a mask. There is nothing more American than that. I don’t want Covid to be 400 times worse than 9/11.


The Slowing Harvest

I knew that when I went away in August I would be missing the bulk of my harvest. Thankful for my friends who got all the butternut squash and cucumbers and beans, but sad that it was the end of those.

I have lots of green tomatoes, which are reluctantly ripening and an abundance of banana peppers, but the variety that was my garden is dwindling. Everyday I cut a couple of okra that keep holding on, but no cucumbers or squash. The eggplant are so slow growing it is almost like they are fake, like baby plastic eggplant attached to the plant.

It is time to pull things out. My garden does not get much fall sun. I want to plant some kale, arugula and herbs like cilantro and dill that like the cooler weather. My enthusiasm for daily garden work is waning, even though there is still lots of work to be done.

My compost is so depleted and the fig tree that so promisingly had tons of figs waiting to ripen got wiped out by deer in one night, right before I was about to harvest.

Overall I am thrilled with the output this year, with the exception of summer squash and zucchini that were ravaged by boring worms. Next year I will have to try every organic method to save the plants, starting with putting them in different beds.

What I am going to miss most is not having to buy vegetables. But having a garden gives me an even bigger appreciation for all that farmers do.


Dogs Love The Pandemic

Sometimes I wonder if dogs are secretly keeping Covid going so they could keep their humans home with them. I don’t know how they might be doing it, but it seems plausible.

Today Russ left extra early to fly to Washington for the day. Shay stayed snuggled in bed late into the morning. When she finally woke up she went on a hunt to find Russ. Her first stop was in his office, where Shay serves as his work supervisor. As he was not there this got her upset so she went to the kitchen to see if he was just getting his coffee, no Russ.

I watched as she visited every room in the house, even crying at a closed door to Carter’s room until I opened it to show her he was not there. How could he have snuck out of the house without her knowledge, and where was he?

I offered myself up as a candidate to be supervised. I had a long morning zoom, but Shay chose to stand and lookout the front door, pining for Russ. She had no interest in helping me sort socks, her normally favorite task.

I invited Shay to come to the sweat shop while I worked. Turned down cold. She barley asked for meals as her despondency increased. Russ is not due home until ten tonight. I am certain that she will have worked herself into a full on anxiety attack by then. Thank goodness this is just a one day trip.


Happy Birthday Margsey

Tomorrow is my sister Margaret’s birthday. For the longest time it was just me and Margaret. We wore sister dresses and tortured each other. We were fairly old, 8 1/2 and 5, when we got our surprise third sister Janet. Despite Janet’s arrival Margaret was always my “little sister.” I am sure it was not a position she prized.

Margaret’s birthday is just a week after Janet’s so she lost having a whole birthday month to herself. Top it off, her birthday was right after the first day of school which was not the most celebrated thing in a class of new kids you hardly know.

Margaret has always been more stylish than any of us. So I can imagine it was quite a horror to her that she had to wear my hand-me-downs. It was made even worse by having to wear what looked like the same dress for three or four years because she would first have hers and then my matching dress.

The worst thing about being the “little” sister is when we got two of anything she automatically got the smaller one – Like easter baskets. The Easter bunny would leave me a big basket and Margaret a little one. They might have had the same amount of candy, but I don’t think so. Especially since I always got up earlier and rearranged the candy giving her all the stuff I didn’t like, which she also did not like.

Why give us two different sized baskets? She could tell mine was bigger. Why not give us two that were the same size, but different colors. When Janet came around I think all the baskets were equal, but the damage of the small basket years was done.

I want to say I’m sorry to Margaret for anything I ever did that made her feel like the “little” sister. This is Margaret’s first Birthday as a married lady. I hope that Pete is treating her like a Queen.

I can’t fix the childhood issues, but at least I can get as many people as possible to wish Margaret a Happy Birthday.


Greg Abbott is Full of It

Today as Texas Governor, Greg Abbott was signing a terrible restrictive voting rights bill he was questioned about last weeks abortion bill he signed. The question was about the bill not making any provisions for rape victims who become pregnant. Abbott’s response was, “Let’s be clear, rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

Really? First, Texas is the 15th highest state for rapes in the country per capitia. There are over 55.2 rapes per 100,000 per year and those are just the ones that are reported. Last year over 8,000 women in Texas reported a rape, but the statistics show that only about one in ten rapes ever gets reported.

So let’s guess there were 80,000 rapes in Texas last year. How in the world can Abbott prevent rapes from happening when the number is that big? Most women are raped by people they know. There is no way to lock someone up before they prevent a crime so how can Abbott say he is going to protect women from rapists. If he were going to do that why has t he done it already?

It’s just another ridiculous response to a terrible law. Abbott is not about protecting women, but controlling them.


Cilantro Lime Dressing

I know Cilantro is a taste that divides many, but if you are not a soap taster of it this dressing is yummy. It is easy to make and was perfect on this corn, shrimp, okra, tomato, avocado salad.

It is easy to make this in a blender or with a stick blender. No need to chop anything.

1 bunch of cilantro, stems and leaves

1/3 cup of lime juice

3 cloves of garlic

2 dried red chillies, or big pinch of red pepper flakes

2 T. Honey

2 T. Rice wine vinegar

1 T. Grated ginger

1/3 cup olive oil

Big pinch salt

Put everything in the blender and pulse until cilantro is minced.


Too Late For “Story Teller” Business Cards?

When I was kid I was often asked the common question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is an unfair question to ask most kids because we have no idea what all the jobs out there are, let alone what new jobs are yet to be invented. But today at Church I learned of the most important job, one that actually would be my dream job.

Alex, our youth pastor, was preaching today. He told the congregation that there was something more important than anything else on earth, stories and story tellers. Being a story teller is a job. I am not exactly sure it was laid out that distinctly, but that was my take away.

Shoot, I thought. Finally at the age of sixty I hear of the job that is best suited to me in every way, and I had no idea it was a real job. Now I have to admit that I have listed “story teller” as my occupation on more than a few forms, but that just was covering up the fact that I actually was not working for pay.

As a child, if you were labeled a “story teller” it meant you were a liar. No wonder I never thought it could be my actually line of work. Of course, when I was a sales person or a marketer, telling stories was my line of work. I would tell clients stories about how what I had to sell them would improve their life, their bottom line and even make then appear more beautiful. It had to be a really good story to make someone believe that a Mail opening machine would affect their appearance, but it worked.

For our entire marriage Russ has numbered my stories based on how often they get told. My top most repeated story is number one and so on. Of course the numbers on the stories change depending on my audience and the relevance of the material. How many of my friends have asked me to tell “Saskatoon” over and over again.

Sadly, I am still not sure how I can earn a living as a story teller. Yes, writers are story tellers, but writing is not my best skill. I do much better with a captive live audience and that is something that does not seem to be coming back anytime soon. So perhaps I missed my chance to have a really important job. I still will keep telling stories, just try and stop me. I just don’t think I will get business cards that say “story teller” on them.


Remind Me, I Need Low Profile

When it comes to beds, I am particular and Russ is not. He says he is happy to sleep on a piece of plywood and I am closer to the princess and the pea, minus the crown. With all the staying home over the last two year, my mattress became more and more important to me. I have hated our last bed for a long time, but had not told Russ until recently.

When we went to a hotel in June for a memorial service I had a great nights sleep and decided now was the time to break down and buy a new bed.

It took me a couple of months to actually go to the mattress store, but after all my research I was ready for some side-by-side tests. I decided to go with a Sterns and Foster, the first time I have bought this brand. The only decision my salesman gave me after I picked the mattress was box springs or adjustable base?

Since the adjustable would mean that Russ and I would have to agree on degree settings I went with box springs. Today our bed was delivered right on time. The young men brought in the two box springs and then the mattress. The combination, when placed on our frame, are so high that I practically need a step stool.

I called the salesman and he said he made a mistake by not asking if we wanted a low profile box spring. Nice of him to admit his mistake. The new, thinner box springs will be here Tuesday. Until then I will just have to jump.

As for Russ, who never went for a test visit at the mattress store, he promptly lay down on the new bed and fell asleep for a quick nap. I think it is way better than a piece of plywood.


What Can I Do About Texas?

I don’t live in Texas, but I have a few friends who do. I love my friends, but I don’t love their government. The list of things I am upset about Texas about keeps growing. Their anti-choice law, allowing guns everywhere, not allowing mask mandates, it all makes me crazy. But it is not my state. As just one person it is hard to make an impression on a place as big as Texas that I am never going to support anything they do.

Sure, my never traveling to Texas will not make any difference. My choosing products that are not made in Texas, will not change things. But what if everyone who thinks like me boycotts all things Texan? Texas is the size of most big European countries. They can stand on their own, but Texas is not content to just sell to themselves.

When my own state of North Carolina enacted the stupidest bathroom law ever seen in this country, others boycotted NC. When we lost the NCAA basketball tournament that seemed to really make an impact on NC and we got rid of that ridiculous law.

I can’t vote out people in Texas who think they should force women to have unplanned babies, but I can let Texas know that I don’t support them. There are laws of unintended consequences. I can only imagine how clogged up Texan courts are going to be with child support cases for all those babies needing the fathers’ to step up and pay for the next eighteen years.

The majority of Americans believe that women and their doctors should make decisions about pregnancies. Just because there is a heart beat at five weeks gestation does not mean that a fetus will be a viable human, but in Texas that is not considered. Well Texas, I don’t consider you for anything.


Indisputably MY Best Family Member’s Birthday

Quiz anyone about my family and everyone in and out of it agrees that my sister Janet is the most outstanding family member. None of the rest of even come close so there is no jealousy, just admiration. This fact has been true from the moment she came into the world.

Janet was the most beautiful baby. And even a more stunning toddler, but to make us all not fell inadequate she shunned bathing and brushing of her hair. In spite of the lack of grooming she still outshone us all.

Her physical beauty was minor in relation to her athletic ability. She could out throw, hit, swim, ski and score everybody.

Loyalty has always been her hallmark. The only people who do not like her were those who were intimidated by her and insecure themselves, and they are few and far between. She is even nice to those people.

Janet is the hardest worker I know, even as a child. If there was grass to be cut, or logs to be chopped, she was the only eight year old doing that. That trait has lasted her whole life. Today when she goes to sell a department store products she does not take no for an answer, always finding a way to make things work for everybody.

Considering her superiority I feel like September 2 should be a national holiday. Since I can’t make that happen the least I can do is let people know that this is her day. My most wonderful sister Janet’s birthday.


Random Knowledge

Over a lifetime I have accumulated a lot of random knowledge. I wish my memory for french verb conjugation was as good as my memory for cleaning tips. School life would have been much easier. Sadly I have never taken an AP stain removal test, which I am certain I would have gotten a five on.

A couple of days ago, after our long road trip to Maine and back, Russ looked at my car and said I needed to have my headlight professionally cleaned as they were slightly foggy with some crazing. I was planning on having my car detailed anyway, but since I could not get an appointment until the end of September I went ahead and cleaned the headlights myself.

Russ had already hand washed the car and was unhappy with the headlights. I told him that the answer was tooth paste. I can’t tell you where or when I learned this trick, but it works great.

I bought the cheapest tube of white tooth paste I could find. Turns out Pepsodent is only .99¢, while the most expensive Crest is over $7. I ran a big bead of tooth paste on the plastic lens of my headlight. Then, using an old tooth brush, I rubbed the paste all over the lens in circular motions.

After the brushing I rinsed the headlight with the hose. The lights were greatly improved. No fogginess and I could not see any crazing.

I looked online after I had already used the toothpaste and found many products for a lot more money than .99¢ to do the same job. I don’t know where I learn these things, but it is great when the cheep home remedy works so well. Thank goodness for a random knowledge brain.


Talk Radio Talkers Dying Off

In the last month at least three conservative talk radio hosts have died of Covid, Phil Valentine, Dick Farrel and Marc Bernie. One of Tennessee and two of Florida. All three of them apparently rallied against the Covid Vaccine and Mask Mandates and paid the ultimate price for their ignorance.

Being a talk radio personality is a job that does not necessarily have any requirements for expertise or education. You have to be able to talk, and get people to follow you. In the conservative talk realm there was little to no requirements for honesty or brains.

Thanks to politicians who thought they knew better than public health experts we have had plenty of people not following experts and not getting vaccines or wearing masks. Once the politicians started that line of thinking the conservative talking heads picked up that line and ran with it.

Well these idiots ran right to the grave. None of the deceased got vaccinated, because they knew better than public health officials who actually have degrees and expertise, unlike talk radio people.

I hope that some of the listeners to these former talkers learn from their deaths and get a vaccine, wear masks, get their children vaccinated and make them wear masks at school. I really hope people will stop listening to non-experts who just happen to have a radio show. Of course they all could die off before that could happen.


I Knew It Would Come In Handy

I’m not exactly a hoarder. I have “collections,” but they are not things that take over my house. I do tend to save things from trips that remind me of a certain place, person or time. Every once in a while I go through a big purge and get rid of things that I have forgotten their meaning.

What I keep is not always of value, but sometimes I keeps unusual things I think might come in handy one day. Today’s found object is the perfect example of that.

Twenty-five or six years ago I went to South Africa to make some commercials. I actually went twice, once on the advance scouting trip and back again for the ten day shout. We stayed at the Palace Hotel in Sun City and we were well treated there. My iced tea always came with a long plastic tusk like tooth pick with my lemon attached to it. It wasn’t anything valuable or special, but it reminded me of that trip. I brought one home and stuck it in the pencil and pen bucket on my bedside table.

Now I have cleaned out that bucket about every five years, testing the pens to see if they still work. Somehow the tusk has remained.

Recently I have made a special drink of Gosslings Diet Ginger ale, lime juice and a cherry and some juice from the cherry jar. It’s a yummy, not to bad for you drink, but the only problem is I make it in too big a glass and the cherry falls to the bottom. To me and my Shirley Temple loving ways, the cherry is the best part of the drink, but I can’t get it out without getting my hand wet with sticky liquid.

I was enjoying this drink in bed last night and suddenly I looked over at my pencil bucket and saw the answer to my problem, the tusk. The long curved pointed skewer was able to grasp the cherry without my hand having to go too deeply in the glass.

I hate to pat myself on the back for saving the tiny tusk all these years, but boy I was glad I did last night. I think I should look around at other “saved” objects and see how I could use them.


Better Late Than Never

It was three or four years ago that I agreed to chair the building committee for our churches new Fellowship hall. There was a great committee of building experts so it seemed like my job would mostly be communicating and herding. The schedule had us moving into the new building in time for Rally day, the first Sunday in September 2020.

The old building was torn down on time, the new building started coming out of the ground and then Covid hit. The building committee no longer met in person, like every other in person entity, but the building continued.

The worked slowed due to rain, and Covid. The original move in date seemed unimportant since we could not gather inside the building so we let our contractor go slower. We finally finished the building this winter, but we still could not use it. As people got vaccinated we thought we could begin to gather in groups, then Delta hit. We did go back to in person church services, but no all-church meals.

Today, one year, less one week, from the day we originally wanted, we finally dedicated our fellowship hall. At the end of church we all walked across the court yard, and social distanced ourselves around the main room. We installed our new officers and then dedicated the building with parishioners all putting a hand on the building to pray for it.

Next week will be Rally Day and the fellowship hall will be used for the purposes it was intended. It may have taken many years, but I look forward to celebrating many events there. Soon, no one but me will remember how long it took and how over due it was.


Driving Vs. Cleaning the Bathroom

For the last three days I spent a good amount of time driving in the car. Two days of the drive were not too long; day 1, three and a half hours, day 2, six hours, but day 3 was eight hours. Today is our first day home and I only had to drive Russ over to the airport to pick up his car. Other than that I have spent most of the day cleaning.

Normally if you asked me if I would like to drive five hours or spend one hour cleaning the bath room I might take the driving. I really don’t mind driving. But today I have never been so happy to clean the bathroom, as well as doing laundry, changing the sheets, vacuuming, mopping the kitchen floor and tending the garden.

As fun as visiting so many friends and doing so many fun things it was kind of nice to just do mundane things today. Despite all I did I still have plenty of other things to clean in my house. There is nothing more frustrating than leaving a clean house empty and coming home to a dusty one. I shouldn’t complain because I love my home. I just wish vacation wasn’t so tiring and coming home was more relaxing.


It Takes Good Friends

We made it home tonight, but stopped first to pick Shay up at her wonderful sitter, Mary. Mary has been taking care of Shay whenever we go away for ten years. Shay adores visiting her. This trip Shay was there with her cousin Brady for a few days and her neighbor dogs, Harry and Winston.

Mary said Shay had a ball, which we do not doubt, but now Shay is exhausted from all that activity and she is snuggled up ready to pass out. Thanks to Mary for always taking such good care of Shay.

I came home to a happy garden thanks to my friend Jan who watered and picked while I was gone. She got a good trade in all the veggies she could eat. It is terrible to work for months on your garden only to go away during high production season. Without Jan my garden would have failed. You need to pick constantly and water when needed.

I do have a lot of work to do to clean out cucumbers, squash and beans that have lived their course. Hopefully it will get a little cooler so I won’t miss Maine so much when I go out in the garden. Thanks Jan for keeping your eye on everything.

It helps to have good friends back at home when you go away. It is even better to come home and have everything in order.


Packing in the Visits

This is our last night on the road. Russ is making the drive home with me which is unheard of. Usually he flys in and flys out from vacation. This year when I said I thought I would stop and see his family if Bucks County on the way home he thought he would like to do that too. So today I got to be his work chauffeur. I drove, in silence and he talked to clients for the whole day.

We left Boston at 8:00 with him on his first call. We were headed to Ridgefield to meet up with Suzanne, Steve and their youngest, Oliver to have lunch at their club. Russ worked the whole way so I made the trip very quickly. We arrived in Ridgefield early so we went to see my childhood home in Wilton. We couldn’t see much because I did not want to drive down the driveway, but they have added a new garage and turned our old garage into rooms.

Our next door neighbors’s the Phrals’ house looked very fixed up and the Scheweitzers house next to them had a huge addition. The Humphrey’s house looked the same and was for sale.

We had the best lunch with Suzanne and family. We realized that the last time we had seen each other was on this day two years ago at her father’s memorial service and that going two years without seeing each other in person is the longest we have ever gone since 1979. We are not going to let Covid or any other stupid virus do that to us again.

We left Ridgefield and drove to Russ’ father’s house in Bucks county. It has been two years since we have seen them too. Brother David and his wife Tasha and their oldest daughter Bree came and brought dinner. Then, just as I was about to pass out his sister Nancy and her youngest Jack showed up. Dave served Nancy some of the orange watermelon he had brought. After eating some, which tastes just like watermelon, Nancy asked if it was actually cantaloupe, because it was the same color as that melon. She knew it tasted like watermelon, but after a long day at work your mind can play tricks on you.

I finally had to excuse myself, as chauffeuring really took it out of me. We packed in seeing nine people today as the last hurrah for our trip. Tomorrow I will be back to silent driving, but it is well worth it to have Russ with me on the drive and getting a chance to see his whole family and my best friends.


Art on Vacation

When we go on vacation we try and work in as much art as possible. Sadly only I made it to the MFA when we were in Boston last week, but today we all went to the Farnsworth in Rockland along with Warren.

Maine is a state full of art and artists. It is no surprise since the natural landscape is inspiring. The art is everywhere. I especially loved this mural on the side of a building in Rockland, but the lighting and my photography don’t do it justice.

The Farnsworth is one of my favorite museums. Today we got to see a new exhibit of Wyeth works, NC’s, Andrew’s and Jamie’s that were all donators by Andrew’s wife Betsy who passed away last year at the age of 98.

It was a generous collection of 27 new paintings that had been held in the family and now we all can enjoy them at the Farnsworth. Such a talented family the Wyeth’s are and I really appreciate the chance to see not just finished paintings, but studies in pencil and charcoal for paintings and see the artists progress and planning.

Sadly Warren left us after the art, bidding us safe travels. We will be back again as soon as we can, as we all love Maine.

We grabbed a quick bite of lunch which was difficult because many places were closed due to the shortage of workers. I am hoping that the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine will prompt more people to get it and go back to work.

I took this photo rom the door

It was too long a drive back to Boston to bring Carter home. Russ and I checked into our tiny Hotel room. I had made the reservation when I thought it might just be me spending the night. Russ is a good sport about my frugal travel. Why spend a bunch of money to spend thirteen hours in a place. Thank goodness it has good air conditioning since it is hot as can be in Boston. As far as I am concerned it is a work of art to outfit a tiny room with a king sized bed.


Maine Walks

One thing our whole family loves to do together when we come to Maine is walk. Everyday we pick a different trail, path or breakwater to ramble on. Before we arrived the weather looked iffy, but with each passing day it has been better and better and today was the most glorious day of all.

Day before yesterday we walked in Belfast. The town is hilly and you really feel that walk on your backside. Russ and Warren walked across the river while Carter and I walked between stores. I had to visit Fiddlehead Artisan, the store that first inspired me to learn to make quilts. We also made a fifth return visit to Bella Books and luckily they still had some Orange Julius Cookies for sale.

Yesterday we walked the child’s chapel walk in Rockport in the morning. It was a shady walk near the shore so we got to view the beautiful waterfront houses from the back. The gardens this time of year are extraordinary and I coveted the old stone walls that surrounded them and the rock gardens.

After lunch Carter, Warren and I did a Camden town walk. The lack of available employees is hurting business up here. We had to wait in line at Zoot for coffee just making it before they closed at three o’clock. The primary reason for our Camden Walk was to look at Warren’s store, Antiques @ 10 Mechanic where he has a successful antique booth. Carter looked at a lot of items that interested her, but decided her apartment is getting fairly filled up.

We walked up and back the main shopping street where I said I was tired of shopping and stopped going into stores, since I really hate shopping… until we came to Jo Ellen Designs. This store has always been a favorite so I gave in and went in. It was all I could do not to buy everything in the store. I purchased many Christmas gifts and then in a moment of weakness I bought the biggest thing in the store, a rug for my living room. The owner and designer could not have been nicer about how they could ship it to me. Since Russ was not with us he was surprised to learn that I needed a new rug for the living room.

For today’s walk we were joined by one of my dearest high school friends, July, as we call her, who drove up from Durham, Maine for the day. We all walked the Rockland breakwater as it was the perfect sunny day, pick day of the vacation. Getting to spend time with July was soothing to my soul. We just wish that our friend Shannon was here with us.

While Warren, July and I went to lunch Russ and Carter went to the Maine Sports

Store and Russ bought Warren a map of all the hikes in the area. It is too bad we are leaving in the morning because we have at least a dozen new walks to take. Just more incentive to come and spend time with our precious friend Warren at his sweet home on the coast.


Recentering

The forecast for the weather for the last two days has been ever changing. Yesterday I went to church with Warren at his sweet little church. Since it was not so rainy Russ and Carter stayed behind to do their own spiritual renewal.

Warren was the Deacon in charge for the day so I helped him open the windows of the little church and prop them up with wooden dowels as the grayness of the morning lifted. The building was built in the 1800’s and has boxes instead of pews with the straight backed, small bench type of seating that made early parishioners feel no comfort in earthly worship and made me wonder how church survived at all. I was greeted warmly by the forty to fifty people who made up the congregation for the day.

Warren told me the regular pastor was away, but that I would love the guest pastor. If there ever was an understatement it was that. Kate Braestrup, the pastor for the Maine Game wardens and a four time book author was the guest preacher. The service opened with a welcome and a call for announcements from the congregation. People stood up to announce flea market sales and a note about donuts. There was the masked singing of familiar hymns, and then Warren gave a moving prayer and asked for concerns and celebrations where the congregation parcipitated, including me asking for prayers for a friend’s child.

Then Kate stood for her sermon. She echoed the words of the Hymn There is a balm in Gilead as she brought the congregation to tears as she spoke about the women of Afghanistan. It was a heart wrenching talk about mother’s passing their girl babies through the barbed wire fences to the arms of awaiting soldiers who they hoped would take their daughter’s out of a country that was once again a dangerous place to be a girl. I quickly forgot how uncomfortable the slightly forward leaning back of the pew was as my body tried to hold back the wrenching sound that came with my tears. It was a powerful morning.

Warren and I drove back towards the coast as the sun was trying to break through and I felt the huge appreciation for the luck that I was born here and to the people I was born to. Sometimes it is hard to have that perspective.

I was sorry Carter had missed a chance to listen to Kate. She would have felt a kinship with her feminist point of view. But she and Russ had their own chance to commune with nature, one that gave them that rest from work to renew themselves. Maine seems to recenter us all in different ways.


Uncontrollable Laughter

One of the best things about our old fashioned Maine Vacations is that Warren, Carter and I love to play games together and Russ gets out of having to play games because we have a third. Today we played Ticket to Ride, which Warren did not love, so he taught us a card game called Pitch, aka High, Low, Jack, Game.

Carter has never played a lot of cards, so she is unfamiliar with common game terms, like what the suits are called. Clubs are referred to as clovers in her games. As Warren was teaching us the rules, which involve bidding a suit, commonly called, “the Trump suit” I commented that Trump has even ruined cards. Carter quickly shot back, “As if that is the worst thing he ruined.” We laughed until we fell off our chairs.

Speaking of laughing, there came a point in the night, after dinner and dessert and lots of game playing that Carter looked over at the table next to her and noticed a tiny tray displayed on a plate stand. She asked Warren what this “tiny tray” was for and it just struck a funny bone in us and we started laughing. The laughing was so uncontrollable that I actually was worried that Carter had stopped breathing, but I was to paralyzed with laughter so I could not do a thing about her. Eventually we all took a breath and got back to the game. We still don’t know the tiny tray is for.

It was a very eventful day in many other ways, but as we were busy from early morning until late at night I will have to save all the other stories for another day so I can post this before midnight and try and get some sleep.

We are all safe in sound here with no Henri action. Thanks for the messages of concern from far and wide.


Back to Howard Johnsons

It has been two years since our last visit to our favorite HOJO’s. Our friend Warren has been obviously despondent over our absence because he has pulled out all the stops for our visit.

Last night he made a lovely dinner and this morning the breakfast was divine, especially the grapes cut in half. (There is never a need to cut my grapes in half.). After breakfast we went to take my favorite walk, the Rockland breakwater. It was slightly misty at Warren’s, but only foggy at the breakwater. Russ and Carter, with their long legs were way out in front of us. Thankfully Warren had no issue walking at my pace. By the time we finished the walk things cleared up a d we could see the islands.

Not satisfied with just one walk we went from the breakwater to the wellness trail in the woods. Again Russ and Carter were off like deer and I brought up the rear. Nonetheless it was good to get 12,000 steps before lunch.

We lunched at home with the famous hojo’s tuna melt and that prompted the need for naps for us all.

Tonight we went to our favorite restaurant in the mid-coast, Primo. They make the farm to table seem like the only way restaurants should go. They never disappoint us. It is a good thing we got all those steps, but it is our first vacation in months.


Finally Vacation

I left home on Monday and I just arrived at our vacation spot. It was a fun journey, but not a vacation. The last bit from Boston to the mid-coast of Maine seemed the longest. I think I am just extra exhausted, perhaps my big day of walking yesterday wore me out. I have no excuse because unlike Russ and Carter I was not working right up until the minute we left Boston. Actually they both worked In the car.

As soon as we crossed into Maine we headed to Kittery for lunch at a spot Suzanne suggested. It was wonderful to sit looking at the boats on the water and have a lobster roll. That’s vacation.

We avoided the coast road and drove the backroads to Warren’s house. He greeted us with his usually over abundance of snacks, offering us a choice between superior Cheddar or Vermont Cheddar. When I asked what the difference was he said, “Green label or red label.” I likened the cheddar choice to scotch brand tape; Red plaid or green plaid, both the same tape.

We had a delicious dinner after cheddar time on the front porch watching the tide come in to clam cove. Russ and Carter are doing the dishes as I write from the cool night’s air of the porch in the dark so as not to attract bugs. For now I need sleep so I can rest up for vacation.


City Living

Russ and I are staying in a hotel in Boston because I promised Carter I would not stay with her until she had a guest room, which I am not counting on anytime in the next decade. Last night as we slept on the twenty sixth floor I was rudely awakened by a bright flashing light and loud voice in our room repeating, “Potential Emergency, await stair evacuation instructions.” I was up like a bolt, but Russ barley moved and resumed a light snore. For two hours I awaited instructions, planning what I would take down the 26 flights of stairs.

I went to the door and smelled nothing and heard only the opening of other doors, wondering the same thing I did. I looked out the window and listened for sirens; Nothing. I lay down and tried to not go back to sleep thinking about what an orphaned Carter might do. We never got follow up instructions and eventually I fell back to sleep, only to awake prematurely when Russ got up to have a very early work call.

Since I was awake I went ahead and got up. It was raining, but not too hard. I was going for a Pedicure at Carter’s nail place, it had been 18 months since my last one and I did not want to subject my regular nail person to these feet. Russ gave me his tiny travel umbrella and I walked the six blocks in the rain.

When I was finished with fabulous feet, the rain had significantly picked up. The howling wind came around corners flipping the tiny travel umbrella inside out so I stopped in a CVS and bought an equally small and flimsy replacement. There was no way to keep my thin white button down shirt from being totally soaked, providing a sheerness that no one wanted to see. I finally made it back to the hotel only to discover that the wind had pulled my reading glasses off their chains around my neck. So much for my favorite glasses.

As I had not eaten anything yet, and Russ had a one hour break we went to find lunch in a way that we did not have to go outside. Since our hotel was not serving lunch we traveled through some overground tunnels until we found one open restaurant. It was huge with no customers. We were sad for the, but happy for us.

After lunch the sun came out. Russ went back to work and I walked to the MFA for my planned visit. Along the way I passed the Christian Scientist Mother church, which has been under renovation since before we looked at Northeastern with Carter seven years ago. I got to wondering if there would be any Christian Scientists left due to Covid to pay for finishing the renovation.

After a good mile walk I arrived at the Museum. Thankfully museum goers are good rule followers and everyone had their masks on and did excellent social distancing. A whole afternoon of fabulous art fixers all other problems, as well as the 14,500 steps I got today.

After working all day, Carter joined us for dinner at Salty Girl where we had a most fabulous selections of various seafood dishes, but by 8:30 my middle of the night interruptions were catching up with me. Carter went home on the T and Russ and I walked home. Praying for a solid night’s sleep since we finally get to Maine tomorrow.


Friends and Family

Today’s adventure of Dana’s New England Friend tour started out with a yummy breakfast of homemade blueberry scones and fruit at the Bed and Breakfast of Nancy and Peter. Friends really go all out when you visit them for two meals. Stay longer and you might get hot dogs, but two meals and they put on the dog.

When I visit you there is no reason to make home baked goods, but for some people it is a good excuse. Nancy’s scones were hands down the best scones I have ever had. Very light and flavorful. The Brits could take lessons from her.

Sadly I had to say goodbye right after breakfast as I had some miles to go up the coast to Rhode Island. I was off to my friend Sally’s in Jamestown Rhode Island. Sally is the best thing to come out of Covid for me. Although we went to college together we did not hang out that much there, but we have become fast friends thanks to regular Zooms this past year.

I had never been to Jamestown and found it to be an absolutely darling seaside village. Sally lives in a beautiful shingle style house with the most fabulous hydrangea tunnel and perfect gardens. She gave me the whole tour of the small town with so many gorgeous homes and gardens. New England is so hard to beat in the summer.

We had lunch on the water at her club where we talked about the fun of visiting old friends and how much we liked road trips. It was a short, but sweet visit, because I had to get back on the road to get to Boston to see Carter.

One of the objectives of this trip was to deliver to Carter a rug, painting and lamp she got from my mother. While I was bringing those I also threw in a bunch of other things, like a pot of mint from our garden, some new good knives and a Costco lifetime supply of trash bags. After unpacking Carter’s stuff we delivered a box of China that Carter sold to her boss from my parent’s estate sale.

We went to our hotel for me to check in and Russ joined us from his day of working up here. Off on the T to the North end for dinner and I will say it has been a very full day. Friends and Family what could be better?


Timeless Friendships

My favorite kind of days are when I wake up at one old friend’s house and drive to an even older friends house. My darling friend David flew home today from Ghana just in time to see me at breakfast before I departed his and John’s house. I would have loved to have had more time with David, but after his flying all night and my need to get on the road I had to go.

Driving north on I -95 was a very familiar thing for me to do. Covid is still having some affect on traffic in a positive way, until I hit Connecticut. Then it was just one Range Rover after another jockeying for a one car advantage and putting all the rest of us at risk. But they do own the road.

I got to my friend Nancy’s house before either she or her husband Peter were back from their haircuts. I really love friends who step up their personal grooming just in time for my visit. I am sensing a theme here as I cut John’s hair yesterday at his house and now Nancy and Peter.

I got a chance to spend time with their wonderful daughter Sarah who is about to go to grad school. I love talking with my oldest friend’s grown children because you see so many qualities repeated in their offspring. I knew that when I met Nancy when we were both fifteen that I would be friends with her for life. Then when she introduced me to Peter before they got married and he had a sticker in the back window of his car that just said, “college” I knew he had the kind of sense of humor that was well above most.

Nancy and Peter, of newly coifed hair, came home and we got a good gab on while Nancy slaved away cooking us a Spanish extravaganza of tomato bread, cheese, paella and salad. My friends I impose on to visit during my drive really go all out cooking for me and I really appreciate it. Considering Covid, going out to eat holds no joy, but sitting outside on a beautiful cool Connecticut summer night with friends is glorious.

After dinner we went inside and on Nancy’s coffee table was an unopened game that I had just read about YESTERDAY, as the best game ever made. It is called Wingspan. So we decided to play it. There is nothing I like better than a whole family of game players.

Nancy started unpacking the box of small colored eggs, 170 game cards with birds, little tokens, game boards, a birdhouse you have to build and hundreds of other small bits and bobs. There were two instruction manuals and an appendix. She started reading. It was way too confusing. Then she saw you could watch a video to learn how to play. We opted for that and crowded around her computer for the fifteen minute video, pausing at every instruction to set things up. After watching the whole thing none of us actually had any idea what the object of the game was and what we were to do with half of the bits and bobs, but we started anyway.

One thing we did know was it took four rounds to play a whole game. We barley got through one round in over an hour of actual play. Sarah beat us all, with Nancy coming it a close second, followed by Peter and I was dead last. I am not sure who wrote the article about Wingspan being the best game ever, but I think it definitely needs to be played a few hundred times before you understand all the options of the game.

Nonetheless, it was one of the most fun evenings I have had all year. Forty-five years of friendship is just a timeless thing. Breaking up my driving by going from one friend to another is the best. Thankfully they welcome me every time.


Thanks Be to Friends

Today is day one of my great northern migration. Last year was a sad year without a trip to Maine. Thanks to wonderful and safely vaccinated friends I am not missing another Maine summer.

One of my favorite parts of making this trip is stopping to see kind friends along the way. Today’s stop is with my friends John and David. Sadly David is not here tonight as he is flying back from Africa, just in time to have breakfast before I leave. John has more than made up for David’s absence. He runs the best Bed and breakfast in the capital, but just for dear friends.

I arrived this afternoon just after he had finished doing all the cooking for our dinner. The house is immaculate, especially my bedroom apartment, with it’s own living rooms kitchen. We had a grand time catching up, telling stories and enjoying their garden. As part of my thank you to him I gave him a haircut cutting off some of his founding father’s hairdo.

We enjoyed a refreshing watermelon gazpacho, spinach quiche, zucchini fritters and green salad. If that wasn’t enough John made a to-die-for strawberry pie with fresh cream. I am certain to sleep well tonight.

Breaking up my drive with the fun of friends makes the journey a vacation. Thanks to John and I can’t wait to see David in the morning.


Rationalizing my Catan Addiction

Some Pre-pandemic years ago my friend Suzanne, whom I was visiting, said to me, “I can’t believe you have never played Settlers of Catan.” Being behind on a game craze was tantamount to not liking Apple pie for me. So she got the game out and gathered her two game loving sons, Jack and Oliver and they introduced me to Catan, as it is now known.

It was the start of a true addiction, and not one I am sad about. First, it Is not fattening and second I can do it in fifteen minutes. See I left Suzanne’s house and quickly discovered an online version where you play against real people, but you do not have chat capability, so there is no fighting or insulting, as long as you ignore the face emoji.

So now I have to admit it has been at least four or five years that I have played online Catan at least once a day, but more likely three times a day. I wake up and play a game while I am watching the news, drinking my tea and waiting for my daily medicine to take effect.

I might play as a break from the mundane chores of the day, while Shay snuggles with me and gets her ears scratched. Then right before I go to bed I play one more game, although I have nodded off in the middle once or twice.

The first step to dealing with addiction is admitting you have a problem. And I do. I could give it up cold Turkey, but since I spend only between 30-40 minutes a day partaking I am not sure I have to go that far.

It doesn’t cost me any money outside of the $4.99 one time fee I paid years ago. I do have some suggestions to improve the online experience and would be willing to pay another $4.99 to get them, but it does not appear that anyone at the game company seems to care.

So I think I am going to hold the status quo on this addiction. It is one of my healthier ones and it certainly kept me sane during the lock down. As Delta rages I may have to go back to all online game playing and Catan is right up there. The way I look at it is no gambling is involved and as long as I am not losing money I can justify this. As Jeff Goldblum said in The Big Chill, “Rationalizationis more Important than sex. Have you ever gone a week without a good rationalization?”


Sheep, Not The Brightest

August 13 came and went and amazingly 45 was not reinstalled as President. This despite all that the My Pillow idiot said. I wonder what all the followers thought was going to happen. Whatever it was, it didn’t.

I think a lot about why there is a huge group of people who don’t believe science. They scorn the Covid vaccine and don’t believe in climate change, despite all the evidence around them. If there was a Venn diagram of the people who thought that 45 would be “reinstalled,” which in it’s self is not a thing, and the non-science crowd, I bet there would be a large overlap.

Why would people believe something so fantastical yet not anything so factual? Perhaps the whole idea that 45 was not “reinstalled” makes these people not believe anything. But wait, they also tend to believe that they are chosen, but chosen for what, other than an offer for a car warranty, I do not know.

Please believers, stop following the likes of My Pillow Guy, or any Governor who signs anti-mask mandate laws. So far they have been wrong more than they have been right. It’s time to make them face the consequences of leading sheep to slaughter. So stop being the sheep.

Oh Yeah, very few sheep read my blog. Preaching to the choir again. Baaaa.


Processing the Harvest

It never fails that when my time is running short the garden produces a huge amount. After doing so much work to build this garden, plant it and nurture the plants I hate to let any of the harvest go to waste. So today I made two quarts of pesto. I still have a huge amount of basil, but I only had so much Parmesan and pine nuts. I hope my plants last two more weeks.

Then I replenished my Refrigerator Pickles. Russ and I have discovered the love of having a few slices of pickles with every dinner. The sourness helps cut any other rich food we might have on our plates.

The biggest thing I had to make today was something with eggplants. I needed to come up with an item that could be frozen since we don’t have anytime to eat all this eggplant. I didn’t want to make something as fattening as eggplant Parmesan. Most eggplant dishes don’t freeze well. I eventually found a vegan dish that was called eggplant meatballs. I found that a misnomer, since there is no meat in the balls.

I made three dozen big balls and now they are in the freezer. Now that Russ has given up meat I hope he likes these. It will bring him right back to those Fridays when we were engaged. He ate frozen meatballs after he had had driven from NJ to my house in DC after work and I would already be asleep. At least now he has homemade pesto to go on the “meatballs” with a side of pickles.


Shay’s Beep, Beep, Beep Sound Effect

Shay is ten years old. You can’t tell by looking at her, if you ignore her home haircut. She has primarily remained exactly the same size for the last nine and a half years. When Russ comes home, she still stands up on her hinds legs and jumps up like a kangaroo. So she appears to have no problem with agility.

The only place Shay shows her age is when she wants to jump up on our bed. As a younger dog she jumped up with no issue, but through the years she has had a fail or two. Those experiences have made her skittish about trying to jump up. If we had carpeting she could do it, but hard wood helps with Russ’ allergies, so Russ wins.

Just because Shay does not want to jump on the bed does not mean she does not demand to be on the bed. So she has developed a routine to get us to pick her up. First she comes in the bed room and faces the bed, then she backs up to sit on the bath mat in the bathroom and sits properly, looking at the person on the bed. If she had sound effects you would hear a beep, beep, beep, like a truck backing up.

Shay will stand there and wait patiently until someone gets up and picks her up. Her plan has worked perfectly. She can stare us down and no one can get in the bathroom without noticing her sad helpless look.

We tried dog stairs, but they did not have railings and she felt very unsafe. So she would just beep, beep, beep backup into the bathroom. It is amazing how well she has trained us and how consistent she is in her actions. She has disproven the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” as she has totally trained me and Russ.


Farewell To John Woody

Last month my dear friend Judy Woody’s husband John passed away. I was teaching Mah Jongg at the beach on the day of his funeral and sadly missed it. Judy spent some days after his passing with her children and grand children in Raleigh.

I missed my window to bring her my “Somebody died? fried chicken” as I was not home. Rather than bring it to her house we invited her to come for dinner tonight with our friends Jan and Rex. It was a much nicer way to get to celebrate John’s life with stories while we ate.

Judy was one of my earliest friends in Durham as I was invited to play Mah Jongg with her group when I first moved here. She is my only constant Mah Jongg friend as others have moved away and some have come back. It is hard for me to believe that John has passed on. I feel like I am too young to be making friend chicken for my friends husband’s passing.

We just never know how long we have with the ones we love. This reminds me to make the most of the opportunities with the people I really like and just skip the ones I feel mediocre about. Judy is a good one. Such a funny and kind friend. I am sad for her loss of John. We are just going to have to play more Mah Jongg and enjoy our friends.


The Best Part of the Lime

For most people the juice that comes from the inside of a lime is the part they use. They cut the fruit and squeeze the juice out and throw away the limiest part; the zest.

If you are cooking something that calls for lime, ignore the recipe if it doesn’t call for zest and add it anyway. For the non-cooks out there, the zest is the green thin skin on the rind. To harvest it from the fruit all you need is a microplane which you rub the tiny blades over the outside of the fruit. It is best to do this while the lime is still whole.

Once you have rendered the lime naked, then you can halve it and squeeze it or cut it into wedges for drinks. If you are squeezing the lime in a drink add a tiny pinch of zest. If you are making a soup or dressing add a table spoon of zest.

To make life really easy you can zest a bunch of limes and freeze the zest. Then juice all the limes right away. The zest keeps the lime safe from air so once you have removed it you do need to juice as the lime will not last without the green. But lime juice will keep in the fridge for a very long time. So zest and juice away.


That Last Tuition Bill

It started twenty years ago, paying tuition for Carter’s school. When she got that first acceptance letter to Westminster School for young children we were thrilled. Paying that $1,000 for a whole year was money well spent. Her first two teacher, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Pyle were the most excellent introduction to school Carter could have ever had.

I will never forget our first parent teacher conference, sitting on those tiny chairs, knees up to our chins. Mrs. Smith excitedly told us that Carter was better than any student she had ever had in twenty years of teaching in one particular skill. We held our breath, please be math. “Cutting with scissors,” she told us. What were we thinking? Two year olds don’t do math.

We were not surprised by the cutting with scissors since we did a lot of arts and crafts at our house, but we took it.

Today, I got the last tuition bill for Carter’s undergraduate education. She is on a five year program, but will finish in December, saving me one semester’s bill. It is should be a happy day, the last big check of many years of big checks, but I am a little sad.

Carter has loved college. She excitedly educated me on some of the more interesting things she has learned and classes that inspired her. She has worked 20 months at Bain Capital while at school, learning so much about the bigger world. I think her equally valuable learning came as a student leader in the Explore program, the place Northeastern places undecided majors. Carter has been a TA and Coordinator for that program since her second year, even while at Bain, helping other students find their paths and passions.

I am thankful that Carter will just be in school and only working in Explore for her last semester. Working full-time while going to school full-time is just too much working and not enough fun. She certainly took after her father in the work/school life balance and nothing like me in the school/throw some parties life.

As soon as the parent portal is back up and running, as it crashed with all the parents looking at their bills, I will pay that last bill. It might be tomorrow. I thought I would be more elated about finishing paying for school, but 20 years of doing that is a hard habit to break. Great job Carter. Finish strong.


There’s Hope in The World

I am writing as I watch the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. I always have this let down feeling when the Olympics are over because I have just spent two weeks watching the great achievements of the best athletes doing things I could never dream of.

This year I was drawn into the stories and felt a sadness that their families could not be there in Tokyo with them after all those years of training. But what I saw were athletes supporting each other and it made it seem so pure. The celebrations at the end of races, where competitors were congratulating each other. It was inspiring and I wish America could come together the way the athletes do. The Olympics always give me hope that the world can be a supportive and kind place.

In a totally different example of hope for world today while I was in the mountains at our friend’s Jan and Rex’s house I witnessed a grist of hundreds of bees enjoying a beautiful hydrangea bush. The sound of the bees was definitive. They had no interest in me, but certainly were getting their pollen fill on the flowers.

Not only were the bees happy there, so were the butterflies. I tried to capture it on video, but I can’t do the swarm Justice. The reason that made me hopeful is that we desperately need bees to sustain life. I plants flowers to support bees and they in turn pollinate my vegetables. Seeing bees in the wild on the top of a mountain, far from any man made hives means they are surviving in the wild.

Bees and Olympians are both my hero’s. Thanks for all you give to the world. We need all the hope we can get. I am going to hold on to this feeling.


The Mountains Are Calling

We came up to their house in Todd, which is better than going to any resort. It was Russ’ first visit here and he fell in love with it immediately. There is nothing better than a man and his devoted dog getting to hike to the tree house while I got to play games with Jan and Rex. Everyone was happy with that.

There is hardly anything better than having wonderful friends who invite you to their mountain house. Then when their house is at the top of a cool mountain it is a bigger bonus. We are so lucky that our friends Jan and Rex are those friends.

The whole gang took a hike around the lake with Shay in the lead the whole time. The only issue was Shay did not like to walk across the wooden bridges with slats just a little to far apart from each other so her feet fall through. She quickly learned how to walk stiff legged on the center of the slats.

We had yummy meals, lots of laughs, and great out door time. Hooray for great friends and mountain time.


Dog Tired

Today Shay spent time with her much larger labradoodle friend Crocket. Crocket is triple Shay’s size, but Shay can hold her own. They frolicked in the yard running and chasing each other.

I love watching Shay chase Crocket and then as Crocket turns he chases Shay and they never quite catch, just pass by one another.

So after all that running they come inside and collapse. Dog tired. I was tired just watching them run.

I can tell someone who will sleep well tonight. Two someone’s.


Have Soup, Will Travel

With an abundance of cucumbers from the garden I decided to make some cold cucumber soup to give to my friend Jan. My cucumber plants are about spent and I am waiting to see if the last few fruits flourish before I rip the plants out. Thankfully I have lots of good fresh herbs to add the flavor to this soup.

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

5 table spoons minced onions

1 large clove of garlic

1 cup Greek yogurt

Handful of each, fresh dill, tarragon and flat leaf parsley

Juice of a lemon

2 T. Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients less a 1/4 cup of cucumber in a blender and blend well. Add the last chopped cucumber. Chill. Enjoy.


Lost, But Not Forgotten Friends

I finished listening to a great book, The Midnight Library, recommended by my friend Suzanne. In it the protagonist is able to visit other lives she might have lived if she had just made one different choice or another. You can imagine how many choices we each make everyday and how if we changed just one of them we might lead a totally different life.

I loved the book, although I am not one to have remorse over a path not taken. What the book did do for me is make me wonder what happened to people I have known over the years, but lost track of.

Suddenly, I was washed over with names of people I haven’t seen, heard from or perhaps even thought of in years. It started with my fifth grade friend Gayle Hemingway, whose mother taught piano lessons in their living room. I always wanted to take piano, but we did not have one at home until the day I went to boarding school, when my mother bought herself a baby grand. Talk about timing.

Then there were two favorite teachers. Dale Stoelting, who was both my fourth and sixth grade teacher and Ruth Farrell who was my seventh and eighth grade art teacher. I would love to see both of them.

The next person who came to my mind was Lori Hand, a friend from Wilton who went to Kent school with my friend Tom Hurdman. I lost total track of her once I went to college. We spent everyday together for a couple of summers.

Then I thought of a Washington friend, Felicity, who lived next door to me in DuPont circle, my first year there. She was an English Barrister, who came to do some work for a year in Washington. She hardly had any furniture in her apartment, but had a big Irish Setter dog.

I am normally good at keeping up with people, but before there was Facebook and the Internet it was just harder. What I really wonder is if I have crossed paths with lost friends and had not realized we were in the same proximity. It is not like we go around with a big name tag above our head. Sometimes I wish we did. I would love to talk to old friends just to compare memories and see where they ended up.


Re-embracing Masks For The Long Term

Yesterday I read an article that there was a study done on four major U.K. transportation systems checking the surfaces on trains, buses and escalators for Covid. The study found that there was no Covid on surfaces, meaning it is safe to touch things.

More and more evidence shows that Covid is transmitted through air droplets that get right in your nose. So wearing masks is absolutely your best way of protecting yourself in tandem with the vaccine.

Masks are not that big a deal. Health care professionals have been wearing them all day at work for years. I am happy to wear my mask when I go to public places. I am just happy to get to go places. Yesterday I went to Trader Joe’s and without any kind of mandate or requirement every person in the place was wearing a mask.

Not only is the mask protecting us from Covid, but also the flu and the common cold. Seems like a no-brainer to me that we stop fighting it and just get used to wearing the mask. As long as children can’t get vaccinated we have a huge reason to be a good example and not make a big deal about wearing it.

The FDA is going to try and approve the Pfizer vaccine for full approval by Labor Day. The reason it is taking so long is they have to write all the logistical rules about transporting and storing it for regular doctor’s offices. The approval has little to do with making sure it is safe. They have two million data points about the safety already. It’s just about doting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the paper work.

Once that approval is done then employers can mandate it and we can get on with making a vaccine a requirement to live a normal life and those who refuse can be banned from anything fun.

Only once we get 85%+ of all people vaccinated can we even consider not wearing masks. Don’t fight it. It protects you and hides any double chins you might have. As for the anti-vaxers who also fight the masks, I have no time for you idiots.


Repair Diagnoses Super Power

When I got dressed this morning in my pseudo workmen’s overalls I had no idea I was actually getting dressed to play pretend plumber. A couple of days ago I discovered that the spare toilet paper holder had gotten water in the bottom, thus ruining a whole roll of perfectly good toilet paper. Thank goodness this did not happen a year ago when toilet paper was more valuable than gold.

I chalked it up to condensation since it sat right beside the air conditioning vent. Then again today I noticed some water next to the toilet paper holder. It was a clean wet spot, but definitely wet. This was not condensation.

I dried the floor off and cleaned it with bleach cleaner. Then I put a dry piece of paper towel next to the base of the toilet and flushed the toilet. Sure enough a tiny amount of water wet the edge of the paper towel.

Proud of my detective work I called my wonderful brother team of plumbers and left a message saying, “I know you all are the professionals, but I have a leak at the base of my toilet and my best guess is the wax ring has failed.”

The plumbers were at my house within two hours and I got a gold star for my correct diagnosis. They said that it was great I called when I did, because most people don’t catch this issue fast enough and it can do major damage.

I am thankful to forty years of watching This Old House and learning what a wax ring is. If you don’t know it’s literally a big circle of wax that goes on the waste line pipe in the floor of your bathroom and the toilet sits on top of it. The wax ring makes a seal that keeps the water going where you want it.

I guess my overalls are like my superpower workmen’s cape. When I put the. On I can diagnose a home repair in a single bound, but I still need to call the experts to fix it.


A Food First

After many long years waiting for their new house to be built we finally got to go over and have dinner at our friends Lynn an Logan’s. To say that cooking is not their thing is a bit of an understatement, but their new house has a beautiful kitchen, prep room and outdoor kitchen. So tonight we used all of them to make homemade Pizzas.

I had brought some veggies from our garden. I precooked some eggplant planks only to discover that Ellis had never eaten eggplant in her 22 years. I think she had some tonight, but I am still unsure if she likes it.

After grilling the crusts on the grill the pizzas were topped and went into the oven. I had to get a photo of four pizzas cooking in Lynn’s new oven. Mostly I wanted to remember what it looked like for food to be cooking in Lynn’s house because it is just to beautiful to mess up with actual cooking.

We ate outside on their beautiful terrace and it was a memorable evening. Especially as the dogs, Shay was invited, clamored around Russ begging for crusts.

The night could only have been better if Carter were there to laugh with her sister E. But we loved the new discovery of eating food that has come to the Tom’s house.

I am going to keep an eye on Lynn’s perfectly clean oven and see if it ever gets a splatter in it. I don’t want tonight to be an aberration for it was so fun and yummy. Thanks to the Toms!


Not a Normal Night’s sleep

I am not a sleep walker. I don’t think I talk much in my sleep. Last night I had some crazy dream and in it I was doing something with fabric, that much I remember. I woke up and one of my really good embroidered pillow cases was totally off a pillow and it was torn in half all the way around the outside edges.

I had a vague recollection of doing this in my sleep, but have no idea what I could have been dreaming I was doing that involved ripping fabric. I guess I should be thankful that I did not dream I was filleting a fish or cutting my hair, but still I had to be fairly violent to rip the pillowcase all the way around every seam.

At this point I am a little afraid to go to sleep and see what happens tonight. If I could choose I guess I wish I would go walk on the treadmill in my sleep, or vacuum. I don’t want to destroy anything else in my sleep.


Summer’s Bounty

When I left home Monday morning there was no rain in the forecast for the whole week. This meant I had to depend on Russ to not only harvest the garden at least once while I was gone, but to water twice. He did an excellent job of keeping things alive. He did harvest, but told me when I got home I had a lot to do.

This morning, as the hottest day of the year was just beginning to pre-heat I went out to take stock of the garden. Being away from my garden for four days is a little nerve inducing. I was greeted by an abundance of Japanese eggplants ready to cut. The yield today was eight nice fruits. Enough to make into a freezable meal or two.

I cut some of the ever present birds eye peppers and jalapeños. Picked two quarts of pole beans. And started in on the tomatoes. This was my largest day of tomato harvest for big tomatoes. I picked at least 20, Roma’s, Rutger’s, Campari’s, along with a pint of Cherry and grapes. These tomatoes will keep me busy this weekend.

I got my first two mini butternut squash. I look forward to seeing how they cook up. I picked some left-to-long okra because Russ did not know you have to cut it everyday.

The only thing I think might be spent are the cucumbers. The plants are not as robust and there are just a few small fruits growing. I can hardly complain as I have harvested easily over 100 cucumbers from my four plants.

One bit of information that is never on a plant tag or seed packet is how long a plant will produce. They all tell you how long it takes a seed to germinate and how long until production of the first fruit, but nowhere does it tell you how long the plant will live. Of course that variable is dependent on so many things, but some where I would like to know the average. Am I able to get the most out of the plant or has it lived it’s useful life and it’s time for me to pull it up?

Every fall I hear stories of people who have tomatoes on the vine well into October and have been getting fruit for four months. I don’t think my cucumbers are long for this world, but I am hopeful for my tomatoes.

I am praying for some rain because this heat is mighty hard on everything, especially me as I water. It has been an excellent year in the new garden. I have been well pleased with it’s bounty. I have not taken a photo of every basket I harvested, or anything I just picked and handed off to a friend, but here are some photos of my baskets as I have picked.


Why We All Need More Mah Jongg

Today was the culmination of four days of Mah Jongg classes down at the beach. First, I have to thank my friend Kate who hosted me. I just couldn’t go and teach classes without a great place to stay. Staying there is a dream. My friend Reba has had me so many times and now Kate has done it twice. What generous friends they are.

As my last two beginner classes wrapped up today I got the best compliment I have ever gotten from a student, “Besides teaching Mah Jongg are you also a stand-up comic some where?” Mah Jongg is fun and I try and make learning it as fun as possible. It is hard to learn at first so making light of things makes it easier.

The other thing that happened today, that has never happened in 24 years of teaching Mah Jongg, is a group of four of my students, who sat together at one table, gave me a tip. It wasn’t a tip like, “Buy Apple stock,” but actual cash. I tried to give it back and they stuck it in my purse and insisted. They had already paid for the class, tips were unnecessary, but those students for sure will all get A’s on their report cards.

As I drove home after classes ended I realized one thing that was most positive about teaching for four days, not one person mentioned, politics, the state of the world, Covid or anything else that is unpleasant and tiresome. No one disagreed or fought, it was all cordial and fun.

It was interesting that I sat next to a duplicate bridge director while I had lunch yesterday. He told me his goal was to be feared by the players he was directing. I thought that was a terrible goal. Games should be fun. Now I know many nice bridge directors, so I am not commenting on bridge as a whole, but I do think Mah Jongg is a kinder game. At least the students I have are kind. I feel like if we just played more Mah Jongg the world would be a happier place.

I forgot to take photos of the afternoon class, but here are the ladies in the morning group. Great job to all the new players. I wish you many Jokers.